The National University Health System experts who carried out a study on the elderly in Singapore (see the Sunday Times report “Lonely and depressed elderly cause for worry”- ST 6th May 2012) came out with some good news and some bad news. The elderly the study revealed are living longer and healthier. That’s the good news.
But the bad news is that although seniors in their 80s are physically alright, many of them are lonely and depressed. Indeed loneliness can do a lot of damage.
There have also been many reports of our elderly citizens who have died all alone. And nobody knows until a foul stench comes on. There are several seniors that are living all alone – even in landed properties.
In the U.K, the government recognises this problem and has decided to get teenage students between the ages of 16- 20 years to do community as part of character building. So every day, they would knock on the doors of these elderly citizens to see if all is well. An example: “Good morning Mrs Brown, how are you today?” the students would ask.
This is a unique way to ensure that if there is no response for the occupant, the students can alert the authorities immediately. Singapore should try this as a means, of not only reaching to the elderly, but of also inculcating in our students a sense of caring for our elderly folks. This is one way to build the kampong spirit here in Singapore.
Build an extra floor at the top of schools dedicated to the elderly
Perhaps some might view this as radical idea, but I fervently believe that it is worthwhile investing in, given that by 2020, our fast ageing population will see many more Singaporeans hitting past 60 or more.
Have an extra floor in school buildings that can allocate space for our elderly citizens- it can be a daycare centre for old folks, where qigong can be practised and activities organized by students and teachers for our seniors. End the day’s activities with a breakfast served by the students and the teachers.
Hold charity concerts for our seniors
One way that can help the elderly lead more enjoyable lives is to provide recreational activities for them.
Legendary entertainer, Pat Boone, now 72 years old returned from Arizona recently where he gave concerts to senior citizens. Boone does not believe in retirement and has made a huge impact on the world through his singing and strong Christian values. His marriage to Shirley Boone has lasted 50 years; counting.
Recreation is crucial for our seniors to lead meaningful and fruitful lives.
As many of our seniors adore Pat Boone, it would be timely if the Ministerial Committee on Ageing (MCA) could explore the feasibility of inviting Pat Boone to perform concerts here in Singapore for our seniors.
Boone can also inspire and motivate our own seniors with his own success story, and how to value a marriage as he does.
MCA could also include our own local entertainers like Gypsy, the Thunderbirds, the Quests and many of local artistes who were household names in the early 60s, 70s and 80s to participate in this musical extravaganza that is sure to bring joy to our silver-haired citizens.
RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO